A Man Called Ove

While this post attempts to be relatively spoiler-free, proceed at your own risk.

A Man Called Ove is a great read. That’s all you need to know.

But what really impressed me about this book is how it kept me reading even though the main character isn’t (especially at first) all that likable. This is a heavily character driven novel – if you were to make an outline of the plot, not all that much happens. The charm of the book comes from being in Ove’s head and seeing how his thoughts contrast with his actions and how those affect the people around him.

The book is very simple, and maybe that’s part of what keeps it so readable. There isn’t a learning curve – Ove is a curmudgeon, loves routines and wants to be left alone. Though I love a good epic fantasy, there’s something nice about being able to jump right in, too. The story bounces back and forth between the present day and different periods of Ove’s life. As it unfolds, it shows you why Ove is the way he is, and his thoughts and actions make more sense. It wouldn’t be nearly as effective to put all of this information up front. Getting to know Ove is the payoff of the story, and the author succeeds in making that alone enticing.

There are some books, such as The Rosie Project where I, personally, didn’t find the main character’s quirks charming, no matter how much explanation was given. Ove feels more than just a caricature, he feels like someone you know, perhaps even reflecting a bit of yourself. (I mean, we all get upset with bad drivers, right?) If you’re interested in a good study on character, how to make one compelling and memorable, this might be something worth looking into. Of course, I think it’s a worthwhile read in general, but especially for those looking to glean something from it.

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